What a great, much needed rest.
It’s been a week since Spring Break came to a close, and I’m hopeful for the next two months! The first few days back from a break are sometimes rocky – did they REALLY not remember what country we live in after just a week away from school? – but I think we’re back in a groove.
As a teacher, each new school year seems to provide a blank slate of possibilities for what’s to come. On the first day of school there is a magical feeling, like anything is possible and we’re going to learn everything by the end of 180 days.
Now that spring has come into our school year, there’s a sense of urgency. I only have them for a short while, and an even shorter amount of time until their end-of-the-year state exams. Now we tend to focus our curriculum into a tight laser of “the essential” stuff we want them to know before they’re out of our hands once again for the summer.
And isn’t life the same way? We start out with wild dreams and crazy expectations (in a good way). The world is our oyster.
Halfway through, we start to get a little more practical, but there’s still a lot of fun to be had. The reality that not EVERYTHING is going to be accomplished in one lifetime is pretty clear now, and we start to focus our efforts on what we thing is most important.
I haven’t reached the spring break of my life yet, but whether we’re there, or around the halfway mark, or even if you’re still at the first days of school – this is clear:
Treat every day like it’s the final days of learning. The last days of school are coming soon enough….
Have you ever been driving somewhere with the family, and turned the music off or told the kids to stop playing their game because it occured to you they might not know the lyrics to the star spangled banner? Or what city and state they live in? Or what your phone number and address is? When this happens to me what inevitably follows is a barrage of question and answering until I am satisfied they have it, and I can rest easy the rest of the drive. I’m sure they love it.
Assessment is merely the process of finding out what your children know. It would be foolish to think you can teach someone anything without also knowing what it is they KNOW. Considering there is infinite knowledge in our universe, narrowing it down to what they DON’T know would probably help speed up the process. 🙂
But assessment, or testing, doesn’t have to happen as a seperate event. You can assess while you teach. The assessment can even be used as a teaching tool, as they learn while you figure out what they need to know. An easy way to do this is a simple line up exercise. When they are lined up to go somewhere (or sitting on the couch waiting, if you’re at home) just give them some questions. The correct answerer goes to the front of the line. Then, keep going. Ask the same question two or three times. Answer some questions if they don’t understand. Discuss. Repeat. Learn.
I use this with my class, and my kids. I’m thinking about using it with my wife as well. Honey – what’s the capitol of Indiana? 🙂
Creativity is important in our lives. I saw a little post the other day that said “EARTH, without ART, is just….EH…”
I thought that was clever, and a little true. Without the creative parts of our lives, we would tend toward the type of distopian futures we see in George Orwell books. It’s our creativity, and our differences, that make us unique.
Top three reasons we should keep creativity and artistic expression in our schools, in an age where time is money and our time is constantly running out toward the MSP and HSPE testing time.
1) It will help on the MSP and HSPE. To me, that’s the most convincing, because it’s important for our kids to do well on those mandatory tests, if only for them to feel good about what they are learning and feel they are doing great. The test is not the be all end all of their education, but it’s another pat on the back for them when they do well. When the artistic side of the brain opens up, it allows for quicker and easier recall and understanding of concepts. Cool stuff.
2) If our job is to create fully functioning human beings for our world, and humans who will interact with and improve our society, creative expression is going to be important in their lives. It’s very important to teach them to use word processing programs for future employment, yes, but also to use photoshop and blogging software and to listen and appreciate music. To be a total person, you can’t just rely on the worker aspect.
3) It’s fun. Especially for those kids who aren’t as analytically minded, if you don’t feed their souls they will not love school. And we want kids to love school like I do. Learning is living!
They say that Pride goeth before a fall, and I think that’s true about self pride. But pride is an important commodity as parents and educators. We feel pride at our students and children’s accomplishments, and there’s a little bit of self pride in there as well, because you KNOW there must be at least a LITTLE bit of you inside that accomplishment.
It’s okay – no, it’s NECESSARY – to be prideful of our young charges. They need that pride to keep going. They feed on it. I think sometimes we forget to show them that pride – even the ones who don’t always make us feel prideful. In the elementary years there are many learning opportunities, and even though sometimes it takes doing it WRONG for the child to learn not to do it.
For instance, I had a young student try stealing for the first time last week. I know he’s not a theif, it was almost like he needed to try it. Needed to see what it was like and see if he could get away with it. Now that he’s been scolded and told that it is wrong, he’s not tried it again. When they do things like that, they are still good kids, and they need to feel our pride in them still. That pride keeps them believing they are great, and greatness comes from belief.
I am extremely proud of all my students, and exceedingly proud of my kids. The girls are getting so grown up now – they actually wore heels and earrings to our recent father/daughter ball outing. It was a fun night with my kids, and I couldn’t have been prouder.
The trick is keeping that pride the next day, when they’re whining about not having enough of the right kinds of cereal. 🙂
We NEED school. With all the opinions and research out there, one thing doesn’t seem to be in doubt – education is important. Some students receive home school education from their parents, and I respect that. Some receive education from private schools and charter schools, but most of our population is educated in the public funded school system. And it’s a fact – our kids need education, in some form or another. I believe in the public school system because I believe that kids benefit greatly from the trained individuals that can give them the best education they can get. I know I am much better equipped to teach my kids about the range of a set of data, or superlative adjectives, when I myself have been educated and trained and have experience teaching it. It just makes sense.
Free public education is what we have. That’s an awesome, powerful tool. Our country, and democracy, relies on our citizens being uniformly educated. Every kid is a future voter, and our voters need to be knowledgeable to keep our country strong!
When I talk to my kids about what I do, I like to jokingly say that I fight evil. In our society, ignorance leads to violence, crime, and hate. By educating the future adults of our world, I’m helping keep them on the right track. In addition, I’m educating the people who will become our future doctors, lawyers, police officers, road workers, and soldiers. I’m educating the people who will help us and keep us safe.
Be thankful we have free education for all. It’s a small price we pay for an educated country. Not everyone in the world has that luxury. We need our schools. No question. Education fights evil!
Just because an idea is an old one, does not make it a bad one. And it does not necessarily make it a good one. The wheel is still a pretty great idea, but maybe one made of stone isn’t so awesome. It took new thinking to say “hey, lets try something else.” And it worked. Some day, someone is going to try making Wheels from compressed air molecules. And that might not work so great (or maybe it will?). But someone else might think of a new way to make a wheel, and it works. If it works better than the old, should we stick with the old rubber models just because that’s the way it’s always been done?
New thinking is progress. And just like sharks, if we don’t progress we die.
We need new thinking in education, just like everywhere else. We need new thinking in parenting. If something works better, we should do it. Just because we’ve always learned our multiplication facts the same way, doesn’t mean we always should (even if all the parents say “This isn’t how WE did it.” or “I don’t understand this NEW way of doing it.”)
If something is working in your class or with your kids or anything in your life – KEEP DOING IT. But if something else would work better…lets keep progressing.
It’s a simple act. Step outside. Do something different. But it always seems so hard to make the first step. First steps in anything are, classically, the hardest ones to take.
Life is about making first steps. Every first step you take is a new experience you’ve put under your belt. That first time you tried turnips. The first time you went ice skating. The first time you wore neon green. You don’t think about it, but you get up every day when you probably don’t want to. You make a choice what to eat, what to get dressed in…and if you always did the same thing you’d never take any first steps. But then would you be experiencing everything life has to offer?
I think as teachers and parents we think we’re done with our “living” and focus on teaching the young ones about it. But the best teachers are the experienced ones. The best instructional tool is being a great example.
I want my kids to be lovers of life. I want them to be first step takers. I want them to experience everything, the good and the bad. And that means I have to show them what a first step taker looks like, acts like…what he does everyday in everything.
I think I’ll take that first step, and choose to go outside now. Maybe I’ll go bird watching. I’ve always thought about doing that.
When you go out in the morning, do you see yourself as the hero or villian in your story? I’m willing to bet almost everyone sees themselves as the Batman in their story (or Superman, or Wonder Woman…). And the people that are the challenges in your life, they are the bad guys – the Jokers, Lex Luthors, and…whomever Wonder Woman fights.
What we need is new thinking. We need a realization that EVERYONE is the hero in their story. To Apollo, Rocky was some upstart young guy who didn’t pay his dues who was getting into the big leagues and trying to steal his thunder and his paycheck. This guy needed taken down a peg, and it was up to the hero – Apollo Creed – to do it.
When you come up against your nemisis (like the lady at the coffee shop that always ruins your order, or the co worker who is passive agressive and always talks behind your back, or the boss who yells a lot for no reason) or just someone who is making your life difficult (like that kid who just won’t stop talking about his summer vacation, or the one who always whines when he loses at checkers) try to remember that they aren’t the villain. They’re the hero of their story, and it’s up to you to meet them with respect – like Batman and Superman do. They may not agree all the time. They may believe THEY are the right hero for the job. But they aknowldege they are both heroes, just trying to do good in this crazy little world. And they respect each other.
Respect each other today, and believe like I believe – people are just trying to do the right thing (even if they don’t always do it the right way!).
I love when you can kill two birds with one stone.
Sometimes when you’re teaching kids you lose yourself in the process. In fact, focusing on the objective at hand is extremely important. However, if you can combine objectives – if you can do two things at once – that’s even better.
100 years ago it was pretty good if you could just read and write. But as we learn more an more about our earth, there’s more and more we have to teach. I can’t imagine what the state standards are going to look like another 100 years from now!
But with all that to teach, there’s not enough time to do it one by one. You have to get creative.
Recently we did gingerbread houses with crackers and frosting. It was great, because we could talk about nutrition, and also about communities and construciton. We talked about squares, rectangles, triangles. We talked about weight and load bearing, and why roofs should be peaked.
And in the end, we had a snack. That’s killing two birds with one stone!
check out http://www.mredie.com for more fun ideas to do with the students (or your own kids), and check out the instant plans section if you’ve got a sub day coming up.
They say, with the academic learning requirements we have in each state, that we literally don’t have enough time to teach everything that we’re supposed to. There just isn’t enough time. And I agree with that – to a point.
The real crux of the problem is narrowing down the learning requirements to essentials, but still that isn’t enough. Even if we narrow it down to essentials, we don’t want to control everything a teacher does, so all creativity goes out the window.
I propose a compromise. As a teacher, I take the learning requirements, and pull out the stuff I know is super important, and make sure to teach those. But in addition, I review the important stuff that EVERYONE should know, and I think all teachers should go over each year. That way, if they get to see or hear it each year they have a better chance of retention. And then it’s up to the teacher to fill in with fun facts and learning experiences along the way.
Would we have enough time for that? Maybe not. But it doesn’t hurt to try!